In this first Mongolian Official Selection at Cannes, a teenage boy dreams of winning a scholarship in a national physics competition but his hopes are jeopardized when his mother leaves him to care for his siblings alone.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
As the first Mongolian film to play in the Official Selection at Cannes, Zoljargal Purevdash’s accomplished debut is a gentle and poignant look at the socioeconomic changes transforming modern-day Mongolia.
Ulzii (Battsooj Uurtsaikh), a poor 15-year-old who lives in a yurt with his mother and three siblings in the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, is a talented physics student at school. Hoping to attend university one day, he is encouraged by his teacher to train for a national competition and win a scholarship to one of the best schools in the country. However, when his struggling alcoholic mother leaves to find work in the countryside, Ulzii must take care of his younger siblings while balancing his academic life. As the brutal Mongolian winter sets in and heating becomes more difficult, Ulzii, too proud to ask for help, begins to drift further away from his aspirations in a bid to survive.
With affecting and charming performances from its young cast, If Only I Could Hibernate is gentle in its pace but does not shy away from highlighting the devastation faced by a traditionally nomadic nation in the name of increasing “economic development”, shining a spotlight on those left behind. — Vicci Ho
“Purevdash and her cast… approach this subject with a gentle touch… Ariuntugs Tserenpil’s sensitive production design renders this space as cosy rather than rundown—this is a family home, after all, and there are photos on the wall, toys scattered on the floor and a television in the corner. Indeed, the whole film is careful to portray its characters as dynamic individuals attempting to break free of economic shackles rather than victims of circumstance.” — Nikki Baughan, Screendaily